by John Lash

12 November 2009

from MetaHistory Website

Wasson and Company is a section of Psychonautics dedicated to research and evaluation on the controversial topic of the entheogenic theory of religion: that is, the claim that the religious experience of the human species originated in altered states induced by the ingestion of sacred medicine plants such as the amanita muscaria mushroom or other psychoactive fungi.



R. Gordon Wasson receiving psilocybin mushrooms
from the Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina


Although there are important antecedents, the argument for the entheogenic basis of religion can be said to have been formally launched by R. Gordon Wasson in his book, Soma - Divine Mushroom of Immortality.


Initially, due in part to the influence of his Russian wife, Valentina, Wasson posited the existence of a prehistorical shamanic mushroom cult in the Ural mountains. He sought to prove that the natural sacrament and inebriant of this cult was the fly-agaric, amanita muscaria, which he identified with the Vedic inebriant, soma.


Variations of the Wasson thesis, including some considerable extrapolations and departures from it, have been advanced by,

...and many others.

Most recently, John Rush: "Failed God - Fractured Myth in a Fragile World":



The Entheogenic Catch-22

At the outset, let me emphasize that I differ from most of the other exponents of this theory in two key respects, each of which implies a kind of Catch-22 in the theory.


To refresh your memory, Catch-22 is defined like this:

  1. A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.

  2. The rules or conditions that create such a situation.

  3. A situation or predicament characterized by absurdity or senselessness.

  4. A contradictory or self-defeating course of action.



First objection

I draw a strong distinction between religious experience and religion as such, i.e., dogma, hierarchy, institution, ritual and regalia.


I reject the claim (expounded by Benny Shannon) that authoritarian religious dogmas such as the Ten Commandments could have been derived from visionary states induced by sacred plants. Consistent with this stance, I reject the notion that genuine visionary revelations given by plant-teachers became corrupted or co-opted into dogmatism and blind beliefs.


I insist that the corruption of paternal/authoritarian religion was present from its inception, a calculated and deliberate strategy for behavioral control.

I argue that religious belief-systems and associated rules that locate their origin and authority in a paternal off-planet deity cannot have been derived from visionary trance induced by sacred plants, for such plants are teachers given by nature to assist the human species in maintaining continuity with nature and, when required, healing its rupture from nature due to socialization of the species.


The second part of this proposition states my assumption - pet theory, if you like - that sacred planets teach and inspire our connection to the earth, so they cannot be cited as the source of off-planet dogmas or anti-natural belief-systems.


psychoactive agents designed and provided by nature to connect the human species to nature cannot induce visions that turn humankind against nature in favor of off-planet divinity, as all the major religions do.


Second objection

I discount the widely accepted associations between psychoactive mushrooms and the historical Jesus, famously argued by John Allegro in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.


In my view as a comparative mythologist, a great part of Allegro's conflation of mushroom/penis/savior is unfounded, if not downright fatuous. His scholarship is excellent except when he gets lost in word games with terms in lost languages.


In parallel with my objection in the first point, I reject the idea that true, pure, or genuine teachings of Jesus existed, having been derived from visionary trance induced by sacred mushrooms, but then were later repressed, distorted, co-opted or otherwise corrupted by those who wished to profit from such visions while prohibiting them to the world at large.


The supposed original teachings of Jesus as leader of a Palestinian mushroom cult cannot have been corrupted into the message of the New Testament because that message is proven by historical and textual analysis to be a systematic contrivance that does not require a hidden or esoteric message for its basis. In short, the NT cannot be corrupted or encoded mushroom shamanism

Various points of difference and my reason for them can be found in the files linked from this page.


Principally, I object to attributing paternal dogmatic religion such as the Mosaic cult of Yahweh to visionary trance induced by psychoactive plants because that argument lends a kind of legitimacy to belief-systems which are hostile to the Goddess and the earth.


I insist that endorsing this argument turns out to be a good thing for religion, making it look good because its basis is presumed to have been an authentic visionary revelation, but a really bad thing for psychonautic visionary practice:





psychonaut: someone who navigates the psyche by the aid of psychoactive plants given by nature, or synthetic compounds produced in the laboratory. Term proposed by Ernst Junger.



A psychonaut (from the Greek ψυχονα?της, meaning literally a sailor of the mind/soul) is a person who uses altered states of consciousness, intentionally induced, to investigate his or her mind, and possibly address spiritual questions, through direct experience.


Psychonauts tend to be pluralistic, willing to explore mystical traditions from established world religions, meditation, lucid dreaming, technologies such as brainwave entrainment and sensory deprivation, and often psychedelic drugs (entheogens).


Because techniques that alter consciousness can be dangerous, and can induce a state of extreme susceptibility, psychonauts generally prefer to undertake these explorations either alone, or in the company of people they trust.


Therefore, they are averse to using altered consciousness in a social or "party" context. Psychonauts generally regard the latter sort of use as irresponsible and dangerous.

psychonautics: the practice and technique of exploring altered states of consciousness; a mode of cultural-cognitive expression, comparable to physics, esthetics, ethics, etc.




The Wikipedia entry reflects a bias inherent to the generally agreed definition:

namely, psychonauts explore "inner states" or investigate their own minds. Nowhere does the definition specify that nature, the external world, the biosphere, or the cosmos at large, could also be investigated psychonautically.


But given that psyche and cosmos are co-emergent, contiguous, interpenetrating and interactive, exploration of the one will lead to the other.


This qualification is perhaps helpful in pointing out that psychonautics is not navel-gazing, or the mere narcissistic contemplation of subjective states, moods, and impressions.

G1 psychonaut Aldous Huxley characterized his experience with mescaline as an encounter with "Mind at Large." To allow that Mind at Large is present and active both inside our minds and in the external world independent of us affords an expanded view of psychonautics.

An old Gnostic adage says,

"Not everything that transpires in the human mind originates there."





I oppose Shannon and others mainly on this point: they give mainstream religion a specious provenance and false legitimacy.

Finally, I would point out that in my opinion it is no coincidence that the argument for "Moses on marijuana or mushrooms" attained international press coverage at the very moment that governmental agencies around the world commenced a brutal crackdown on psychoactive plants, homeopathic medicine, and natural remedies.


Tell me, if you can:

Why did media interest in Shannon's thesis come at a moment when the practice of psychoactive shamanism around the world came under extreme threat?



Dead Sea ET Cult

In Not in His Image, I argued that the Zaddikim of the Qumran settlement were a UFO cult, not a mushroom cult.


In that same book I showed that disciplined use of psychoactive planets in the Mysteries was guided by a master narrative, the myth of the fallen goddess, Sophia. This myth includes an episode that explains the origin, nature, and effects of alien intrusion upon the human mind - the riddle of the Archons.


I contend that,

Archontic suggestion or subliminal entrainment by that one identified species of predatory psychic entity can account for the salvationist belief-systems and paternal/authoritarian religion in human history.

Gnostics of the Pagan Mysteries were trained clairvoyants, clairaudients, and adepts of astral projection and lucid dreaming.


Like the new seers of Carlos Castaņeda, they were able to explore the Nagual, navigate the supernatural layers of the universe, and investigate other dimensions and alien entities, including inorganic beings like the Archons.


In short, they were past masters of the noetic sciences and experts in parapsychology.

The Gnostics attributed Judeo-Christian religion to mental aberrations due in part to the intrusion of extraterrestrial predators, the Archons. Their characterization of the mode of operation of these entities accords closely with the "spiritual control program" attributed by Jacques Vallee to ETs, whom he called "
Messengers of Deception." Not agent of evil, please note.


The Apocryphon of John and other Gnostic texts describe the Archons in exactly the same manner.

Following the Gnostic view, I attribute Judeo-Christian religion (the Abrahamic creeds) to the influence of these "messengers of deception," rather than to visions and revelations inspired by psychoactive plants, or a later distortion of such visions and revelations. On the contrary, such visionary experience, or trance learning, offers healing insight and corrective instruction against Archontic deviation.


Such is my position on entheogenic revelation contrasted to mainstream religious doctrines, rites, and rules.




Noetic sciences in the Mysteries carried a fail-safe against the risk of tricking ourselves into delusional beliefs by the cleverness of our own minds.


To safeguard their investigations, the telestai ("those who are aimed," self-designation of initiates in the Mysteries) used sacred plant-teachers that enabled them to learn directly from Gaia, and correct errors in their mystical vision of the earth and humanity. They would have argued that such plants cannot impart to our minds any teaching, belief, or dogma of a paternal, off-planet, authoritarian, anti-feminine bearing.


Sacred plants are emissaries of the living earth, the Aeon Sophia who morphed into the planet. In shamanic trance induced by psychoactive plants, the telestai detected what deviates us from rapport with nature.


I conclude that,

It is absurd to speculate that the plant-teachers provided by Gaia to keep us sane and align us to her purposes could have been the source of an off-planet religion, deviating us from our rapturous bond with the planet.

But hold on a second.


The famous account by Michael Harner of his shamanic initiation with ayahuasca lends a further twist to this scenario. Harner saw dragon-like entities in long-boats sailing through the sky. In the altered state, he understood these entities to declare that they were the creators of humanity.


When he recounted this incident to an old-timer who had monitored his ayahuasca session, the veteran shaman replied with a chuckle,

"They always say that, but they are liars."




Note well:

it was not the plant entity of ayahuasca itself who spoke to Harner claiming to be the off-planet or ET creator of the human race. That was the claim of skybound entities who appeared in the ayahuasca-induced trance.

This distinction supports my view that ancient seers who investigated the cosmos in altered states induced by sacred plants were able to detect alien deception and intrusion.


They had the power of true discernment, just like the old ayahuasquero who widnesed up Michael Harner.

Knowing how we can be deviated was one of the primary concerns of the Pagan initiates of the Mysteries. Like them, I have encountered Archon/ETs in lucid dreams and other altered states, with and without the assistance of plant teachers.


But I have learned what to make of these encounters, and how to distinguish predatory entities from benevolent or neutral ones, through long and disciplined practice with sacred plants, the medicine of true vision.

Harner's anecdote is extremely instructive. It shows how two aspects of Gnostic teaching dovetail into a single, supremely important insight:

Cognitive ecstasy induced by sacred plants exposes the alien factor in our own minds and the cosmos at large, providing a crucial discrimination: anti-human and anti-nature beliefs attributed to an off-planet deity arise with that alien factor and not from the plant-teachers who alert us to its presence.

Gnostic teaching in this vein were tremendously sophisticated.


Eadwine Psalter

The centerpiece of the study of entheogenic religion is the Paris Eadwine Psalter, a one-of-its-kind manuscript from the 13th century which I had the good fortune to discover in the National Library in Paris in September 2007, just prior to the publication of my book, Not in His Image.